Mello Yello Champ Defends Title at Home Track

October 17, 2019 -- If Steve Torrence is to successfully defend his Top Fuel title in this week’s 34th annual AAA Texas Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex and take another step toward a second consecutive Mello Yello Championship, he knows he’ll need more than just a fast race car.

The 36-year-old Texan, who was born, raised and still lives in Kilgore, has retained Richard Hogan, Bobby Lagana Jr. and a battle-hardened crew of self-proclaimed “outlaws and misfits” to put a Capco Contractors dragster beneath him capable of turning on the win light every time he hits the throttle.

What Torrence contributes is confidence, competitiveness, the experience born of three years of contesting the championship from the top of the driver standings and a laser focus that has produced reaction times like the .031 he delivered in last week’s final against veteran Doug Kalitta.

Having won 20 races in the last two seasons, the cancer survivor is understandably confident, but not overly so. 

“The goal,” he said, “is simple: win the next round and then the round after that and so on.  Small steps, one after another, eventually leading to the prize, which this week is to get the ‘Capco Boys’ another cowboy hat,” a reference to  the race specific bonus presented by the track.

“It’s way too early to worry about points,” he said after regaining the point lead, “(because) if you even remotely start looking at them, you can allow it to get in your head and you don’t want that for this race or the last two.   

“As a team and as a driver, we do the best we can to just concentrate on the task at hand,” he emphasized.  “At the Motorplex, we need to go out and qualify well on Friday, just like we did last week at Charlotte, and if we do that, it gives us a chance to work on a race day setup and then we’re back to it, one round at a time.”

It’s a strategy that has delivered 28 victories over the last three years to a team that unapologetically admits that it buys all of its equipment “off the shelf,” relying on superior assembly and application to make the difference.

The same specifics apply to the second Capco dragster driven by 61-year-old Billy Torrence, the founder and CEO of Capco and the winner of three races this season including the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals last month at St. Louis.

As an accomplished sportsman racer with two NHRA national event victories to his credit in Super Comp, the elder Torrence taught his son the basics of the sport and a lot more.

“The thing he’s taught me is work ethic,” Torrence said of his dad.  “All the big teams have the funding.  They have the parts, the pieces, the people but, sometimes, you’ve just got to work harder than the next guy to get where you want to be and I think that’s what every one of the guys on our two teams strive to do. 

“I think that when you have that mentality and people around you see it, it becomes contagious,” Torrence explained.  “Dealing with the thousands of employees he’s had over the last 25 years at Capco and elsewhere, my dad learned what elevates people and what motivates people and he’s brought that to our race teams.”

Torrence’s 20 wins over two consecutive seasons earned him a spot in another of NHRA’s most exclusive clubs.  He is only the fourth pro driver to accomplish that feat, joining Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson, who won 27 times in 2003-04, John Force, a 22-time Funny Car winner in 1999 and 2000, and Tony Schumacher, who won 21 races in the 2007-08 campaigns.


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